A number of years ago I landed a job with an armoured car company as a guard and driver. The job itself was a combination of logistics (transportation) and security, which seemed to be perfectly suited to the type of work experience I had at the time. I maintained a class one commercial drivers license for years, and had driven all sizes and varieties of trucks. I also had a security services license for quite a while and worked part time doing things like “access control” at special events, bar security, retail security, etc… There was even a period in which I worked nights/evenings as a doorman at an office building on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
In any case, you might say I was a “shoe in” for the job.
Now, as this is a Krav Maga blog, I thought I’d impart a little personal insight and experience with respect to the actual security aspects of my job. I believe this not only relevant to other parts of the security industry and law enforcement, but also to one’s day-to-day life as it pertains to personal safety, situational awareness, and the resolution/avoidance of conflict situations. The latter part of that last point being of paramount importance when one is carrying around a loaded firearm.
For those unfamiliar with the world of armed transport/security, bear in mind that armed personnel being hired to move high value items around is, in fact, an ages old profession. One that predates the existence of firearms themselves. Where there is something worth stealing, there has, and always will be, someone who will try to take it, sometimes by force. This is where people in my role come in.
With all that in mind of course, I was initially pretty nervous about getting into this line of work. This was in spite of the fact that the vast majority of security work I had done up to that point was, well…. pretty “hands on.” I had also trained in a number of different martial arts over the years, and grew up in a fairly gritty part of East Vancouver, back in a day and age where physical violence was a much more common, almost acceptable, part of our whole “social vernacular.” My concern however, was that I only had limited experience with handguns themselves, and had certainly never carried one around with me. Questions arose in my mind like, “What happens if I’m on the receiving end of an organized robbery?” “What if someone gets their hands on my gun and tries to take it from me?” and “How would I react to the pressures of being in an actual gun fight?”
What I learned in my training and from subsequent time on the job answered these questions and many more. For example, I learned that organized robberies are rare these days, at least in the part of the world where we live. If/when they do happen, it’s likely to go down fairly quickly, and as such you may not even see it coming, and may not even have time to react or draw your weapon. It will also likely be carried out by a group of professional thieves who, though they may rough you up a little in the process, aren’t going to want to deal with a murder charge and the associated problems that arise from that. You might get pistol whipped, but chances are you’ll make it out alive. That being said, you still need to train and prepare for the possibility that the thieves may try to kill you, and always be prepared to fight for your life or that of your partner if you have to.
The Complexity of Carrying a Sidearm
We did a lot of rigorous, live fire, shooting drills in the lead up to my employment, often while the instructor was yelling at us. Of course, a big part of the training I did for the job involved hands-on “weapon retention” drills and scenarios. I still run those drills as often as I can on my own accord or with a partner. Which brings me to my next point… the likelihood that you will have to fight for your life on the job increases significantly in a scenario where someone has closed the distance on you and is trying to pull your sidearm from its holster. This is a particularly dangerous situation where you must assume that the person doing this intends to use your gun on you, in a future robbery or murder, or even on a bunch of innocent bystanders.
It’s absolutely paramount that you don’t let them get control of your weapon!
This is one of the biggest pitfalls of carrying a loaded gun while working in what are usually crowded, public areas. This is why you will often see armed guards walking around with their shooting hand resting on their speed loader/magazine pouches at the front of their duty belt with their forearm and elbow resting on top of the grip of their gun. This is a relatively effective way of preventing easy access to the weapon without having to walk around with your hand on the grip itself; people tend to get nervous when they see you doing that.
Observe & Communicate
With that in mind, I still believe the best way to avoid being in either of the aforementioned scenarios in the first place really is through the use of effective observation and communication skills.
Critical observation of peoples’ behaviour, in conjunction with effective communication, are the most useful aspects of any security professional’s toolkit. In observing others around you, a little “healthy” paranoia is actually an asset in my line of work. Anything unusual taking place around you has to be at least considered as a potential threat, or a ruse with which to distract you from a possible setup. A big part of addressing that involves directly communicating with anyone who approaches you before they have the chance to get in your personal space. To me that means, hopefully, not less than 3 metres away, though at least 6 metres is preferable. The farther the better in any case. Though that, in many ways, is largely dependent on the environment.
This also means always having a keen sense of what’s going on in the environment around you at all times. If you got robbed, knocked out, or were relieved of your gun because you were on your phone, or just weren’t paying attention, you have critically failed the most basic level of your job. This could result in the untimely end of your life, or someone else’s.
The Verbal Disarm
So how do you communicate with people in a way that will hopefully prevent them from gaining and exploiting a tactical advantage over you? This often involves giving “polite” tactical commands to people who get in your personal space while you’re working.
For example, if someone approaches me while I’m loading an ABM, I will often put my left (not shooting) hand out and say “That’s close enough! Is there something I can help you with?” or… “Sir / Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to take a few steps back and give us some room here…” To a stranger who tries to start up a conversation with me I will often say “I can’t talk to you right now, I’m on the job” or “There isn’t a single thing we need to discuss here. I’m going to have to ask you to move along and let us work.” The thing to remember is that the conversation they’re starting with you could very well be a distraction tactic. The key in shutting that down is to make sure that none of what you’re saying to people presents any options for them otherwise, and though it may be a little rude, is also direct and not profane in any way. You must to speak to them in a clear, concise fashion, and often with a loud voice and definitive resolve. In some ways it’s the art of being an asshole, without actually being an asshole.
Now, in having members of the public occasionally try to talk to me while on the job, there are certain pre-indicators of violence that I am on the lookout for and do have to address directly. Having, as I said before, grown up when and where I did, I have experienced more than my share of violence at a personal level and at work. One common thread I found in the lead up to many violent events that took place, was that when someone intended to do harm to you, I found they would often make up a story involving you, and subsequently try to ram that story down your throat beforehand. It could be something as simple as “Hey, I saw you checking out my girl” or “Quit staring at me!” or “My friend said you called him a ______.” Sometimes it was more complicated or it could be quite subtle, but it was almost always categorically incorrect and simply made up for the purpose of justifying whatever they were about to inflict upon you. Unfortunately, the logical reaction of ignoring or denying the story that’s being told will simply speed up the process of you ending up in a fight. I found the best way to avert that is to change the story, or the subject of the story completely.
A good example of this in relation to my work is this: I have, on a number of occasions, had people approach me while at work with a “what would you do/are allowed to do if someone tried to rob you?” sort of question. To me this is a made up story that involves me potentially becoming the victim of a crime, and naturally raises a lot of red flags; this person could be testing the waters for a potential robbery as it were.
In these cases I will try to make them the subject of my response with something to the effect of “you may want to entertain the possibility that it would end very badly for you.” Which usually makes them really uncomfortable. Or I will simply point out something about their personal appearance that I think they need to address immediately, I might respond with “Hey, I think your fly is open.” I might even say something deflective like “Did you see that girl that just walked by?” Anything that changes the story and shifts their focus from me, to something else. The trick there is not to let them get to the end of their story, because the ending involves you getting beaten up, robbed, raped, murdered, exploited, etc. Even if it’s only hypothetical, it doesn’t end well for you, and, as I said, it my well be a pre-indicator of someone who is about to do something stupid.
The Use of Potentially Lethal Force
Which brings me to my final point: What happens in the case of an actual violent engagement and what are the rules by which different levels of force are justified?
In the absolute worst case scenario on the job, which is the use of deadly force on the part of an armed security person, there are three elements that need to be in play to justify that.
The subject(s) in that case must have/shown:
- A weapon.
- Intent to use said weapon
- A delivery system for that weapon.
In other words you have to be under attack and legitimately in fear of your life. But what does this mean exactly? Well, if say for example, someone grabs my carryall bag, full of cash, from my hand, in a crowded mall, and runs away with it. Can I draw my gun and threaten to shoot them if they don’t stop?
The answer is no.
If I draw on them I’m being incredibly irresponsible and risk losing my job and my ATC (Authorization to Carry.) If I actually shoot them in that case, I am committing a crime and will likely be charged according to the outcome (murder, attempted murder, etc.). If I even run after them I am putting lives at stake by, once again, risking losing control of my gun in any ensuing melee. At the point that they have fled the scene they are a problem for the local police to deal with. As armed guards we are strongly encouraged to disengage whenever possible. This is a luxury that the police themselves don’t have, for the most part.
However, if I end up in a situation where a subject has approached me, ignored any tactical commands I’ve hopefully had the chance to give them at that point, and pulls a large knife from their pocket and proceeds to rush at me with it, that’s the point when drawing and even using my gun might be justified. There will be a lot of factors to consider in that moment, including the presence of innocent bystanders, the terrain/environment, or the possibility of having to engage multiple subjects. The best case in that scenario is me having my service weapon out of my holster in the “ready” position, and shouting tactical commands for the subject drop the weapon and get on the ground, at which point the subject complies, stands down, and is likely held at gunpoint until the police arrive. The worst outcome, of course, is having to shoot the subject and deal with whatever ensues from that point.
In light of what I’ve said here, it is my sincere hope that throughout my career I never even have to draw my gun, much less use it (I haven’t yet).
In the case of what I do, a boring career is usually a long career. In the aftermath of even the most justified shooting, I would be taken off the job for an extended period of time, if not permanently. I might face some type of criminal or civil legal issues regardless, and, of course, would have yet another traumatic memory to add to the growing list in my head. Needless to say, there’s a great deal of important and very critical decision-making that can take place at my job. Lives may actually hang in the balance.
Beyond the possibility of a lethal encounter or more emotional scars, however, it’s one of the better gigs I’ve had over the years. The pay is decent, the actual work itself is fairly easy going, and it is kind of a hub for military/law enforcement types with whom I often see eye-to-eye, which makes the work environment very positive. Honestly, there are few groups of people I have trusted more than my current set of co-workers, but then what we do is predicated on that in many ways.
The actual day-to-day reality of the gig is that people do stay out of our way for the most part, and the job can be uneventful to the point that many of us do become fairly complacent in our work. I try to avoid that by training as often as I can, and definitely encourage my co-workers to do the same.
I hope this gives you all some insight into what I do. I would definitely recommend this kind of work to anyone in the security industry, those of us who are aspiring to careers in law enforcement or the military, or to anyone who just wants to challenge themselves to do something that requires a higher level of personal engagement in their work.
Written by: a UTKM Student
If you would like to submit a story about your experience in Security, Law enforcement or the military in relation to self defense, violence, de-escalation, what you learned and or how you handled it please make submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org . Min 500 word. Published Submissions will be rewarded with 3 months free access to UTKMU.
For training online visit www.utkmu.com. If you are in the Metro Vancouver area, come learn with us in person, sign up at www.urbantacticskm.com